Saturday, 30 June 2012

Midsummer musings.....

Our summer thus far has been something of a disappointment.

I wake up in the morning, sun splitting the trees, so decide to wear a t-shirt and shorts.

By mid-morning, it's clouded over, and feeling a tad chilly, so I add a shirt to the ensemble.

Lunchtime, it's blowing a gale and rain is falling horizontally, so it's upstairs to change into a jumper and jeans, plus socks.

Mid-afternoon, the sun comes out with a vengeance, so it's back upstairs to reinstate t-shirt and shorts, minus socks.

Late afternoon, it's getting a bit cloudy.  Not sure what to do and fed up with the whole up/down getting changed mallarkey.  Might just grab a throw from the sofa and hedge my bets.

Dinner time.... sun is shining but it's windy and cold.  Back upstairs to change into jeans and a jumper, socks optional as I'm definitely wearing fleece-lined slippers.

Bedtime..... suddenly sultry and muggy.  No air at all in the bedroom so have to throw the duvet on the floor and have both bedside fans going full blast.

2 am, temperature drops to 3 degrees above freezing.  Wake shivering with the cold, still damp from the tropical bedtime heat. Fumble for socks and duvet, both on the floor.  Small Dog is also enlisted to provide additional body heat.

In other words, it's all a thermostat nightmare.

This afternoon I was still feeling a bit wobbly, so PP suggested that as the sun was shining, she would light the charcoal BBQ and cook dinner.  Sitting in the sun it was quite pleasant, not too hot, not too cold.

Within 30 minutes of sitting outside, a huge black cloud came over, but undeterred, PP was adamant that she was cooking outside, come hell or high water.  Both of which were equally likely.

I had to succumb to putting on a jumper, jeans and socks (see above) and settled down on a chair on the patio to await the unfolding of events.

I didn't have to wait long.... Small Dog, ever alert to an unoccupied lap soon discovered me.

After 20 minutes of this, I lost all feeling in my legs, so Small Dog was relegated to her own chair....

Dinner was absolutely delishus.  Succulent beef burgers, squash, peppers, sweetcorn, tiger bread....

.... all accompanied by salad and chilled white wine.

Ditto pudding, which was also cooked on the BBQ.... baked bananas, plums and nectarines.

Eventually, sated but with the wind building and the temperature dropping, we pulled the BBQ up to the table......

 and huddled round it for warmth, like the three witches from Macbeth.....


Two fairly normal witches (although I must admit to having a wiry witches hair which grows sporadically from my chin, and had to be fiercely plucked out) and one small (all over hairy) witch.

I had to enter into the spirit of the thing, and after we'd all been staring vacantly into the shimmering embers for a while, asked....

"When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?"

Upon which, one of the three, who shall remain nameless, piped up...

"wel mumm, i kan probabli doo neckst tewsdai." 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Syncope saga...........

I had the dubious opportunity to conduct an experiment on the random kindness of strangers yesterday.

After spending two days in London with my daughter, we were travelling on the No. 48 omnibus toward London Bridge station, when I began to feel unwell.

We had already been standing waiting at the bus stop in full sun, on one of the hottest days of the year, for more than 20 minutes, and when the bus finally did arrive, it was hotter than hell, packed to bursting and we had to sit right at the back over the engine.

The bus journey can take up to 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions, and as we crawled along, I became increasingly aware that something wasn't right.  Extreme heat really does have a detrimental effect on my MS and eventually I had to say to my daughter that I was feeling 'odd'.

One look at my white, clammy pallor and she fought her way up to the front of the bus to ask the driver to stop straight away.  By the time she got back I was semi-conscious, then vaguely aware of trying to stand up, then everything went a bit black and when I came to I was on the floor of the bus.  Several kind people managed to carry me off, whereupon I violently threw up and collapsed again.

A very nice lady bus passenger phoned 999, even the bus driver was trying to help. A passer-by gave us a bottle of water, which I then wasn't allowed to drink.

From my vantage point at pavement level, I was vaguely aware of passers-by stopping to ask if we needed any help while we waited for the paramedic to arrive.  As we were in the heart of the City of London, most of the feet I could see belonged to suited and booted businessmen.  Of those, only two of the many dozens who hurried past stopped to ask if we were ok.  By far the majority of people who were kind enough to enquire if they could help, were young people, including several tourists.  Although one shambling old down-and-out asked if we were alright, then enquired, rather shamefacedly, if we had any change.

I've no idea how long I was non compos mentis, but gradually I began to feel less like I was facing imminent death, and slowly returning to the land of the living.  By which time the first response paramedic (Charlie) arrived on his bicycle, laden shoulder high with panniers full to bursting with high-tech equipment.  Reassuringly, having found a pulse he gave me a quick 'once over', confirmed my blood pressure was rather low, blood sugar was ok and offered me the less than inviting opportunity to go to hospital for a proper check.  All I wanted to do was get home, so after helping me stand up, and waiting while I regained my equilibrium, he waved us goodbye and headed off into the heat-shimmering London traffic.

After this lengthy hiatus, it was back onto the dreaded No. 48, where thankfully we both got a seat, and onwards to London Bridge.  Despite my protestations, my daughter was adamant that she was coming back to Hastings with me on the train.  Thankfully, that part of the journey was comfortable and uneventful, although I continued to feel a bit 'spacey'.  Having safely delivered me to a waiting PP and Small Dog, she then turned around and got the next train back to London.

So this is by way of a thank you to all the anonymous good samaritans who took the time and trouble to help me in my hour of need.

And of course, to my lovely daughter who made sure I was comfortable, stayed reassuringly calm throughout, coped with guiding the paramedic to where we were using her mobile phone, and looked after me so well through a scary and stressful situation.

Thank you my lovely.......

I'm feeling much better today....  albeit still a bit shaky and spacey and my right foot is hurting so I'm guessing I twisted it when I went down.  All in all though, not too bad considering.  However, I'm staying out of the sun in the cool indoors today, just in case....

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Working weekend......

I've made a virtue of necessity this weekend, as I'm off up to that there London for two days this week to help my lovely, newly qualified teacher daughter pack up her possessions and prepare for her 10th house move in 10 years. 

So, due to being 'hors de combat' during the working week I've been working like a good 'un all weekend.

For me, one of the delights of moving from being a miniature dollmaker, to a miniature toymaker, means that I now get to work with a huge variety of different materials, which gives me the opportunity to use POWER TOOLS.


Miniature power tools I grant you, but power tools nonetheless.  So over the course of the weekend I've been drilling, cutting and jigsawing with my three favourite tools.

For fellow power tool enthusiasts, here are my top 3.

For drilling, I use a Minicraft Drill, clamped vertically in a drill stand.  I mostly use extremely fine drill bits, marginally thicker than a human hair.  I also have a variable speed transformer which makes light work of drilling through any thickness of wood I use.

For cutting quantities of wood (straight cuts) I have a Proxxon table saw, with a scary circular saw blade, thankfully sheathed under a guard.  It makes short work of cutting through jelutong or mahogany stripwood, and I can be sure that all the lengths are exactly the same.

For some arcane reason, there is an exhortation on the front of the machine which indicates that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I allow a bull to push the wood through the machine.

This puts me in something of a quandary, as I'm a Taurean.  I'm marginally mollified that thus far nothing bad has happened to me.  Nevertheless, I remain on my guard.

For free-hand cutting, I have a lovely little Minitool Jigsaw, which is just perfect for cutting very small, intricate shapes.

I'm a bit of a mini power tool geek, so I do have several other miniature marvels, all designed to take the hard work out of cutting/sawing/sanding/shaping, but these are my top 3.

As to exactly WHAT I've been cutting/sawing/shaping etc you will have to wait till 1 July for the release of our next Kit of the Month, which, I have to say, is my favourite to date and is designed to evoke the epitome of the quintessential British summer.


It's NOT an umbrella.

Can you guess what it is yet? 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Another blustery day........

So......we successfully survived the night, although the sound of the wind whipping the trees into a frenzy was, at times, alarming.

Still very windy this morning, and the sky is threatening more rain.  Quite what has happened to our so-called summer remains a mystery.

No matter....

Today I have a plethora of tasks all clamouring for my attention... unloading the kiln, orders to package, work on the July Kit of the Month (which will be ready for July 1st if it kills me) making a start on two new commissions, and, if I can bring myself to do it, more preparation for doing my tax return.  Not to mention the house looks like a tip so a modicum of housework would seem to be called for.

Tall order so I'd better go and get on.......


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Wet and windy......

We've had quite an interesting day weatherwise. Heavy rain this morning, followed by sunshine. Then a thunderstorm this afternoon, when the sky turned black and it felt like night time. Then more sun. Now it's gone dark again and the wind is building so that the trees in the woods behind the house are blowing around like whirling dervishes.

Hope none of them fall on the roof in the night!

Good news to share......

I'm revelling in the role of proud mother today, as my lovely daughter successfully passed her QTS Numeracy Skills Test this morning at only the third attempt.

This means that she is now a fully qualified Teacher of English, having completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education over the course of the past year.

Back in the day, when I trained and qualified as a teacher in Scotland, things were very different.  I've been astounded at the sheer amount of work involved in the training process.  Today is officially the last day of her course, and having completed her two school placements with flying colours and handing in her dissertation last week, the final hurdle to her gaining Qualified Teacher Status was the Numeracy Skills Test, having passed the Literacy Skills Test first time.

I absolutely understand why teachers need to achieve a certain standard in literacy and numeracy, but why part of the numeracy test involves solving mental arithmetic questions in just 18 seconds is beyond me. 

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a whizz at maths, do have a go at one of the practice tests and see how you get on.  I'd be interested to hear your feedback.

However today, I'm delighted that on the very last day of her course, she can enjoy the end of term party this afternoon, knowing that she doesn't face the prospect of spending the summer repeatedly re-doing the test. 

Not only that, she's successfully secured her first teaching post at an amazing school, against fierce competition.

Pleased and proud doesn't even come close.......

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Called to account........

Well, they're done.

The accounts that is.

And I'm done in.

TWO WHOLE DAYS of dealing with numbers has made me go a little bit mad*.  I know that there are people for whom numbers are beautiful things.  They see lovely, intricate, exciting patterns, and can read the language of numbers as easily as I can read a book.

Sometimes I envy those people.  

I wish that just once that I could contemplate doing any sort of arithmetical or mathematical calculation with joy rather than despair.  That my heart would sing (as opposed to sink) at the prospect of reconciling a bank statement, or working out a percentage discount, or balancing our household budget.

And don't even get me started on how much easier things are now that we have calculators and spreadsheets.  

They're so not.

However, I don't think people who are good at maths have much in the way of a sense of humour.  Or, thinking back to the the sadistic b*%!&@d who was my first maths teacher at secondary school, much in the way of humanity.  Perhaps the reason I'm so bad at maths is that I spent much of my time in his classes inventing ever more fiendishly painful ways of devising his protracted death.

But I digress.

The lack of humour thing is true though.  Here is an example.

This is an answer given by a student in an actual maths exam.
Surely, if there is any justice in this world, they deserve more than zero marks.  OK, so perhaps the drawing more resembles a shrew than an elephant, but the student has clearly demonstrated an innovative and creative approach to this problem.  Also, before struck by the elephant brainwave, there is evidence of some working and as we were constantly told at school....

"Always show your working.... even if you eventually get the wrong answer you'll get marks for your working...."

Of course whether the working in question is evidence of the correct process, your guess is as good as mine, but it looks convincingly mathematical to me.

So why has the maths teacher found it necessary to circle the elephant AND ADD A QUESTION MARK?  Not to mention underlining 'elephant'.


I rest my case.

* I told you.........

Saturday, 16 June 2012

June Kit of the Month......

It's a bit late I know, but this month's offering has been a mammoth task.  I've actually been working on it off and on for several months and at times have despaired of ever getting it completed but it's done and is now available on our WEBSITE.....

Dressing tiny dolls is definitely a challenge, but micro wigging is guaranteed to have most people tearing their own hair out!

My distilled experience of 25 years of micro wigging is now contained in a 20-page fully illustrated, step-by-step booklet, along with the tools and materials to enable you to create stunning tiny wigs for small scale dolls.

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As if all that wasn't enough, during June you can combine a purchase of the Complete Micro Wigging Kit with 3 ready to dress jointed porcelain toy dolls and save £6.00.  This offer also includes a FREE hints and tips sheet on dressing small scale dolls.

Hopefully well worth waiting for.........

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday feeling..... where are you???

I feel a distinct lack of Fridayness today.  It may have something to do with the leaden grey skies and frequent showers and the fact that it's so cold I might have to dig out my thermal underwear, socks and fingerless mitts.

So much for summer.

Anyway.... there's probably a burning question hanging in the air, following my last post.

Q:  Sandra, have you made any progress with the accounts?

A:  NO.... buggeroff!

So that's cleared that up then.

In other news, I'm within a gnat's whisker of finishing the June Kit of the Month, which, if it's any later will be a solid contender for July Kit of the Month.  I've also 95% completed two commissions over the past few days so my lack of progress in one area (which shall remain nameless) is due to a lot of progress in another.  Which is all part of the Ying and Yang/Give and Take/To and Fro of life.

See..... I may not be feeling Fridayish, but I'm definitely feeling philosophical.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Displacement activity doesn't have to be taxing....

Yes, it's THAT time of year again and I really can't put off doing it any longer.  I have a self-imposed deadline of end of June (or  the end of the half year, whichever comes first) to get the annual business accounts done and submit my tax return.


It always LOOMS over me like a big black looming thing, so naturally, instead of just gritting my teeth and getting on with it, I insist on finding ever more inventive methods of avoiding it.... supreme displacement activity on a higher plane.

I'd decided that I was really, REALLY going to make a start on it this week and since it's already Wednesday (how did that happen?) and I have a whole cartload of other things to do this week too, I planned to set aside a few hours today to get all the paperwork organised, which is the first loathed step.

Now, in my defence, this past year I have actually been very good about filing business paperwork.  I have 12 large envelopes, one for each month of the tax year 1011-1012, all stuffed to bursting with receipts, invoices, payment details, bank statements, credit card statements, paypal statements, petty cash slips..... the whole enchilada.

However, I have to admit, my filing does leave something to be desired, so I have to go through all the envelopes to check that I haven't inadvertently filed a statement for Oct 2011 in the March 2012 envelope etc etc etc etc etc......

This process, if I put my mind to it, shouldn't take more than 2-3 hours tops.  And it paves the way to taking a clear run at doing the whole year's accounts, for which I have an easy-peasy spreadsheet programme to help me.

However, I have a complete inability to sit down and do it without a certain amount of faffing about first.

Exhibit A - I cleaned all my casting equipment from yesterday. This was entirely unnecessary as I'm going to be doing more casting later today.

Exhibit B - Tidied a cupboard in the workroom which didn't actually need tidying

Exhibit C - Thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, even to the extent of scouring the outside of an ancient roasting pan for a full 20 minutes.

I won't go on...... I'm sure you get the gist.

In the event, sorting through and organising the paperwork took less than an hour, so I feel rather foolish now at being such a wuss about it.  Of course, that's only the tip of the iceberg, as I advance, Titanic-like, towards the act of actually getting all those numbers to behave themselves and line up properly, with no talking at the back.

It has to be done... there's nowhere to hide and it's never usually as bad as I anticipate, once I get started.  

I'm sure it will all be fine...... *famous last words*


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New on our website......

I've been working on some new toy dolls recently, which are now listed on the website.

Following a recent experiment with dyeing silk ribbons, I miraculously discovered some sumptuously gorgeous new colours.....a striking period-style Old Gold, a deliciously succulent Deep Plum, and my own personal favourite, an elegant Dusky Blue, all of which have now been transformed into Jumeau-style costumes for my tiny jointed porcelain toy dolls.

Also, finally back in stock are some new shabby chic toy dolls, dressed in a variety of pastel shades.....

These little toy dolls are proving very popular, as they are suitable for a wide range of miniature period nurseries, from Regency right through to the present day.

As with all of my creations, attention to detail extends to even the bits you can't see!  These little dolls, measuring a smidgen under 1  1/2" have jointed, moveable arms and legs.  She has silk underwear, including a silk camisole top under her high waisted silk dress, trimmed round the hem with vintage French lace, as are the cuffs of her sleeves. The bodice is of fine cotton lace lined with silk.

Finishing touches include tiny silk shoes with soft leather soles, an upswept wig with a cascade of ringlet curls down her back, topped off with a lined silk bonnet, elaborately decorated with fine picot braids and dainty silk buds and bows trimming.

They come in a bespoke black box with illustrated lid...

 ...complete with a numbered, signed certificate of authenticity, each one illustrated with a photograph of the specific doll.

How special is that....?

Monday, 11 June 2012

An announcement.....

Small Dog has an announcement to make.

Never one to blow her own trumpet (?!) she's asked me to let you all know that she has won a competition.

She has been awarded a Princess Poochie prize!

If you visit the website HERE, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look through the slideshow, you'll see her winning entry.

And her prize.....?  A free Poochie Bandana of course.  She's chosen the rather fetching shabby chic 'Summer Loving Poochie' which she will no doubt model in due course.

As she seems to be riding the crest of a lucky streak, I might get her to choose some lottery numbers this week......

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Flaming June....!

And so the Great British summer staggers on in its usual unpredictable style.... too hot to breathe one week, so cold we've got our central heating back on the next.

It's been cold and wet today again, although thankfully the horrendous gales have dissipated.  Saw some pictures earlier of the flood devastation in Wales and of people being rescued from their caravans on campsites by RNLI inflatables, so we're counting ourselves lucky to have got back home unscathed.

I've started to make some inroads into my work to do list today, packaging orders and getting organised to make a start on some lovely commissions.  I even did some casting!

Lots to do this coming week, but at least I won't feel the lure of the great outdoors as the weather forecast is resolutely downbeat for the next week or so.  More cold, wet weather.  So, the perfect excuse to buckle down and get on with it.  I've called a business breakfast meeting for tomorrow morning, which has disgruntled Small Dog no end.  She's not a 'morning dog' at all, so the only way we'll secure her attendance is to promise a bravura breakfast.

She's been a bit grumpy since we got home, possibly because our holiday should have ended today and not two days ago, so she's feeling hard done by.  Also we'd accidentally left her winning rosette out in the caravan and she wanted it pinned to her basket to advertise her achievement, so I had to traipse out through the rain and mud to retrieve it for her.

Chez nous....

And so safely home.

We were finally able to return Friday, early evening, having waited all day for the gale force winds to die down enough to be able to tow safely.

All day yesterday the house and garden were festooned with damp camping gear.... we had to bring the caravan awning back soaking wet, but thankfully, yesterday the brisk winds dried it out, draped over the patio table.  Most of the stuff has now been put away and I've decided that as a penance for being a wuss I'm going to be especially virtuous and catch up on some work today.

Already, the Jubilee weekend seems but a distant memory, but here are some of our best bits....

During the Big Lunch on Sunday, our table was graced by the presence of two very special VIPs

Not to be outdone, PP and I got into the spirit of the thing too......

And here's Small Dog, avidly watching the other contenders in the Fun Dog Show....

Despite the fact that she went under rather than over the jumps (due to her bad leg), wouldn't go through one of the tunnels and refused point blank to walk up the ramp, she did manage to complete the whole course and came away with a flashy rosette and a bag of dog treats.

There's been no living with her ever since..... you'd have thought she'd won Best in Show at Scruffts!

Friday, 8 June 2012


After a horrendous night, convinced that the awning was blowing inside out, and that the caravan was about to overturn, we've decided to cut our losses and try to get home. Not long after dawn we had to dress hurriedly and go outside in the teeth of a howling gale to take down the awning, most of whose ground pegs had been ripped up by the wind. Trying to control metres of nylon fabric determined to act like a sail in 70 mph winds was both terrifying and character forming!
However we haven't been able to leave the campsite due to the continuing high winds which make towing a high-sided vehicle extremely hazardous and foolhardy.
So we're hoping that the gales will abate enough for us to hitch up and get along the few miles of single-track, tree-lined road without incident or meeting anything coming in the opposite direction.
Not the best end to our holiday. All I want now is to get home safely and soon.
Fingers crossed...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Caravan chronicles....

Apparently eskimos have 583 words for snow.

There or thereabouts.

Here in the UK we have roughly the same amount for rain.

This morning we had a light drizzle. By mid-morning though, it was limbering up and had graduated to intermittent showers, followed by steady rain, then full-on biblical deluge.

We gave up waiting for it to clear up and headed for the pub nearest the campsite for a pub lunch. Luckily they were dog friendly so Small Dog was ushered in to lie under our table on her blanky.

After a lovely lunch we were in no hurry to leave, so whiled away the time watching hikers squelching past, water pouring from every orifice.

However, against all the odds, late this afternoon, the clouds parted and a strange yellow burny thing appeared so we set up the bbq, then cooked and ate in our awning.


So we've ended the day watching a blinding sunset with a glass of something chilled.

I could get used to this....

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Rover reporter.....

this iss small dog. mi mum haz gonn two empti the toylet tanc witsh is kwite disgusten butt she has leftt hur smartfoan hear so i thort i wude giv mi loyle pholowurs ann updait.

Wee hav bean on a rali, witsh is whare a lott of peeple ol toe ther karravans two a feeld in the middel of knowhare. Thay hav kno ellektricks nor nuthing. it wos kwite gude tho. mi mumz poot me in for the FUN dogg sho. i wos kompleatli rubish becos i hav a badd legg  with 9 stitshes in and i had two doo an agilitee kors!

Mi mum wos rubbish two tho... she tryed too purrswayde me two jump ovr the barrz and go threw the tunilz and upp the rampz etc. Plus shea had too ware a dog hatt.

Nevurtheles i wun a bag of dog treets and a roaset, so knot two badd.

Affter ol the funn and hillaritie of the chewbillea weakend we hav come too a littel kampsight in the middel of knowhare two. i coll it the forristofdethandblud as it is kwite skarey inn the wudes. Olsow, last knite we hadd a huge tode in our onning. Mi mumz wer neerli hissterikle trien to gett it owt.

The fone iss gettin veri hott and keaps bleapen... sumthen abowt spellen. mi porrs ar kwite soar so i wil trie too send this befour mi mum kums bak.

Pee ess - shea mite hav had a fue glassis of wien tonite...

Roving report......

Due to the miraculous advent of mobile blogging, this post is brought to you courtesy of my smartphone.

This is what Small Dog is doing right now.

Now to see if it has worked....

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jubilee Jamboree....

Despite the fact I'm more of a Republican than a Monarchist, I will be celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this weekend, in style.

As a Scot, it's more of "any excuse for a party", but I have to admit, there is something about the sight of all the flags (and not JUST Union Jacks!) and bunting, sprouting on houses, shops and pubs all across the land, which brings a lump to my throat.

I have packed my Saltire, which will take pride of place on our caravan awning, to authenticate my credentials as a boney fido member of the Union (for the moment at least). Small Dog has packed her Jubilee bandana, and we have a modicum of bunting to decorate our pitch.

We also seem to have packed enough food and drink for a month, so let's hope our fridge is up to the task.... for the first time since we got it, we'll be reliant on our caravan battery rather than electric hookup to power everything that doesn't run on gas, which will be a steep learning curve!

Hope all my UK readers have a lovely, celebratory weekend, regardless of your affiliations.  It's not often the whole nation gets the opportunity to come together as one so surely we should all make the most of it.